The manager of a tiny Maine town was fired Tuesday after his white separatist remarks sparked outrage.
Tom Kawczynski, 37, put the town of Jackman on the map when media outlets across the country began publishing stories about his seemingly unequivocal views that Islam has no place in the Western world, and that Americans would be better off if people of different races “voluntarily separate,” according to the Bangor Daily News. Kawczynski, a transplant from Arizona, also told the Bangor paper that he opposes bringing people from other countries and cultures to the United States and that one can be “pro-white” without harboring hate against people of other races.
The town manager’s comments caused a backlash over the weekend: The Jackman-Moose River Region Chamber of Commerce in a statement called Kawczynski’s remarks “shocking and offensive.” Officials in Jackman — a town of fewer than 1,000 people, where nearly all residents are white — remained mostly quiet about the incident until Tuesday morning, when, after a closed-door executive session with Kawczynski, selectmen decided to terminate his employment.
The officials agreed to pay Kawczynski an additional $30,000 severance so that he would not sue the town, according to the Associated Press. His annual salary was $49,000.
His termination could raise questions about whether towns and corporations can dismiss employees for offensive speech, which is protected by the Constitution. After Google fired an engineer, James Damore, for questioning the company’s diversity policy, for example, he filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that Google discriminates against white men and conservatives.
Kawczynski told reporters after his own firing Tuesday that he is “not a racist, a bigot, a Nazi or any of the other foul names that have been attributed to me or my wife.”
He blamed his termination on the media’s scrutiny of his comments — which he said were mischaracterized — and affirmed his constitutional right to freedom of expression.
“With respect to the comments that caused this that I made about Islam, I would only say I do have serious questions about that, and I hope what happens to me starts some conversation,” he said.
“I hate no race and I love all people. But I do love white people, and I love white people as white people, because it is my firm belief that we should have the same rights . . . as every other group out there in America today,” he said.
After he moved to Maine a year ago, Kawczynski started a group called New Albion, which, according to its website, promotes “traditional western values emphasizing the positive aspects of our European heritage and uniquely American identity.”
In a post on the website about his comments on the “voluntary separation” of races, Kawczynski argued that modern-day examples of segregation are viewed as acceptable by the political left. One example he cited are historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, institutions that were created at a time of widespread segregation in the country, when black students were largely denied admission to traditionally white schools.
But HBCUs are not black-only schools. Although they were created for the education of black people at a time when the majority of colleges and universities prevented minorities from enrolling, nonblack students accounted for 22 percent of enrollment at HBCUs in 2015 — up from 15 percent in 1976, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That includes white students. Take Howard University in Washington, for example.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a tweet early Tuesday that it recently became aware of the group, and that it is “unacceptable to see people in leadership positions espousing white nationalist views.” The SPLC urged Kawczynski to resign immediately.
Kawczynski on Tuesday defended New Albion, calling it a “cultural movement” that is “open to all ethnicity, all races.”
“I lost a job today but I gained a cause,” he said. “And I am not going to stop this fight. I am not quitting.”
Kawczynski and town attorney Warren Shay could not be immediately reached by The Washington Post for comment.
Kawczynski doesn’t consider himself a Republican or a Democrat, he told the Portland Press Herald, although he said he voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. In 2015, he was appointed town chair for Trump, then a front-runner for the Republican nomination, in Grafton County in New Hampshire.
He set up a GoFundMe page to support himself and his wife before he was fired, in anticipation that he would be terminated.
“I’m just a normal guy who lives in a small town,” he explained on his GoFundMe page. “I have certain views. I believe our Freedom of Speech is sacrosanct, that all people should take pride in their origin, and that we should work to build a better future.
“I spoke freely and for that, my job has been threatened, and my wife’s medicine has been put at risk. We’re not wealthy people, but we’re honest and we fight. We are asking for your help now so we can continue fighting this free speech battle. All contributions will be used to sustain us and potentially advance any legal battles that arise.”
The campaign raised at least $98 before it disappeared from GoFundMe’s website. A spokeswoman said the campaign was removed because it violates GoFundMe’s terms of service.
In a post on New Albion’s website following his firing, Kawczynski insisted he is “not the person you’ve read me to be,” and wrote: “People deserve respect. But now I have to rebuild my life, and that will be a challenge. Given how the media paints me, there’s every incentive for me to evolve into the ghastly being they make me sound like, and there even is a market for that. But, I’m going to try to do something harder and tread this path of pushing #WhiteCivilRights. It is a simple, profound, and universally accessible idea that just says whatever rules apply to other races should also be there for whites.”
He added: “I hope it expands beyond me. I get that the fact I like to mix it up on social media and that I have a dark sense of humor and hang out with some unsavory folks makes me a lousy messenger for the masses. I also realize the powers that be are not about to let me just talk about ideas on the merit, because they love using accusations as a way to discredit ideas without looking at their intrinsic validity. But at least my infamy allows me to start discussions, and I hear from all you still in hiding who like that someone is out there speaking up.”
This post has been updated.